Print and Picture Collection

1901 Vine Street, Second Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-686-5405

The Print and Picture Collection is open for research by appointment. Please contact us at erefpix@freelibrary.org to make an appointment.

Open today 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday Closed

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., Oct. 14 : Closed Columbus Day
  • Mon., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 28 : Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • Wed., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
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Upcoming Events

Our Five Senses: Bonus Material

Now through Sun, September 29, 2019 5:00 P.M.

Inspired by the exhibition Our Five Senses (currently on display on the third floor), the Print and Picture Collection and Map Collection have teamed up to showcase additional materials related to the themes of the exhibition and its original inspiration, the 1962 children’s book, My…

Adult Young Adult School Age Exhibitions Photography Maps printmaking Print and Picture Collection Five Senses

The Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia (PIX) is home to diverse collections of fine art prints, photographs, drawings, and artists’ books, as well as extensive research collections of Philadelphia images, both historical and modern. The Special Collections of PIX include:

Philadelphiana Collection

The Philadelphiana Collection contains over 20,000 prints, drawings, scrapbooks, watercolors, and photographs which constitute a picture history of Philadelphia from its founding by William Penn to the present day. Some images have been scanned and can be found in the Historical Images of Philadelphia digital collection. Of particular interest are images of Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs, the Samuel Castner Scrapbooks, and the United States Centennial Exhibition Collection. We are working on creating a subject list for our Philadelphiana collection. This finding aid, last updated on May 28, 2019, can be found here.

Printmaking Methods and Fine Art Prints

A broad collection of prints and printmaking tools representing every form of printmaking method from the fifteenth century to present day. Includes early European master prints, Japanese woodblock prints, and works by renowned modern printmakers, with a special focus on Philadelphia artists. Artists represented include Dürer, Rembrandt, Benton Spruance, and Andy Warhol. A small number of our Fine Art Prints have been digitized, and can be viewed here and here.

Photographic Methods and Fine Art Photographs

A comprehensive collection of photographic methods, including daguerreotypes, albumen prints, stereoviews, tintypes, as well as photographic prints by both local and internationally-known photographers. Photographers represented include Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, David Graham, Ray Metzker, Eadweard Muybridge, and Aaron Siskind.

WPA Collection

The WPA (Works Progress Administration, 1935-1943, renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration) Collection contains about 1,400 prints, drawings and posters created by artists hired by the Federal Government to work in the Philadelphia Graphic Arts Workshop during the Great Depression. When the program ended in 1943, the General Services Administration divided the work of the WPA workshop in Philadelphia and gave them on long-term loan to the Free Library, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Among the artists represented are Julius Block, Sam Brown, Claude Clark, Mildred Elfman, Michael Gallagher, Hubert Mesibov, Raymond Steth, Dox Thrash, and Roswell Weidner. A portion of the WPA Collection has been digitized, and can be viewed here.

Book Arts Collection

The Print and Picture Collection has a growing collection of over 400 artists’ books. Artists' books are works of art that utilize the form of the book. The donation of 50 artists’ books by a collector, who then challenged the local book arts community to match her donation, has greatly enhanced the size and depth of the collection. Artists represented include Johanna Drucker, Susan King, Hedi Kyle, Joan Lyons, Caitlin Perkins, Maddy Rosenberg, Ed Ruscha, Patty Smith, and Susan Viguers. Find Artists’ Books in the online catalog. PIX also has a current subscription to the Journal of Artists' Books.

John Frederick Lewis Portrait Collection

Portrait prints, photographs, and drawings of notable Europeans and Americans, organized by sitter. Donated by John Frederick Lewis in the 1920s, the collection was added to by the library over the years. Among these prints are numerous works of art by such artists as Van Dyck, Nanteuil, and Holbein. Highlights include a photograph of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt attending their son Elliott's wedding in Bryn Mawr in 1932, an engraving of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, and dozens of engraved portraits of Benjamin Franklin.

Americana Collection

The Americana Collection is composed of over 8,000 prints, photographs and ephemera relating to American history. The collection includes a number of plates from Julius Bien’s chromolithographed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, 1858-1860. Other notable printmakers presented in this collection are J.T. Bowen, Thomas Doughty, John Hill, George Endicott, John Sartain and Currier & Ives. Additionally, this collection contains several hundred trade cards, political cartoons, items from political campaigns and Civil War prints.

The Jackson Collection of American Lithographs

The history of lithography may be studied in the Jackson Collection of American Lithographs that includes some 275 lithographs from the collection of Joseph Jackson, author of “The Encyclopedia of Philadelphia and other works of scholarly interest.” This collection includes the first lithograph printed in America by Bass Otis and published in the Analectic Magazine in July of 1819. The collection has been digitized and can be viewed here.

The Rosenthal Collection of Drawings by American Artists

The Rosenthal Collection was donated by artist Albert Rosenthal (1863-1939) in the 1920s. Containing over 800 drawings by artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the collection is made up of illustrations for magazines, and studies for paintings and larger works. Artists in the collection include Eastman Johnson, C. E. H. Bonwill, Louis M. Glackens, Edward H. Potthast, John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, Thomas Sully, John Trumbull and Benjamin West.

Drawings and Watercolors

In addition to the Rosenthal gift, the Print and Picture Collection has watercolors and drawings from a wide variety of artists, including Augustus Kollner, Violet Oakley, Aubrey Beardsley, Wyncie King, Joseph Pennell and Edith Emerson. PIX also has original drawings by stained glass aritsts Nicola D'Ascenzo, Lawrence Saint, and the Oesterle Glass Works.

Other Special Collections

Other special collections include the Hampton L. Carson Collection of Napoleonic Prints, a Poster Collection, the Franklin Davenport Edmunds Collection, and the Political Cartoon Collection. Many collections have not been digitized, and some collections have only been digitized in part. Please email the Print and Picture Collection at erefpix@freelibrary.org with questions about our collections. 


The Print and Picture Collection is open for research by appointment only. To make an appointment or inquire about our collections, please email erefpix@freelibrary.org. We welcome visits from school groups and university classes. We offer specialized class visits based upon the strengths of our collections. Instructors are invited to schedule a research visit prior to the class visit, in order to select items they would like the class to see.  For more information on educational programs, please email erefpix@freelibrary.org. Read more about PIX on the Free Library's Blog.


Exhibitions

In addition to exhibitions in the Print and Picture Collection Hallway Gallery, materials from the Print and Picture Collection can be seen in the following exhibitions:

Our Five Senses: A New Family Friendly, Fully-Interactive Exhibition

Our Five Senses connects the science of the senses with the mind and the literary experience. Visitors of all ages will learn about their identity, perceptions, and brain development by following five anthropomorphic characters (Touch, Taste, Sight, Hearing, and Smell) across multiple sensory stations. These hands-on sensory stations create intergenerational conversations around literacy, science, and fun!

And check out some highlights of our recent exhibition, Philadelphia: The Changing City in our Digital Collections: Philadelphia: The Changing City


Research Support

Free Library of Philadelphia Research Databases

How to Research the History of a House

The Art Department holds an extensive selection of files on artists, architects, designers and collectors, and the art & architecture of Philadelphia. These include article clippings, gallery announcements, artist statements, exhibition catalogs, and other ephemera related to artists and art subjects.

The Map Collection is a multidisciplinary collection of cartographic materials, housing over 130,000 current and historical maps. The collection covers every area of the world, with a focus on Philadelphia and adjacent regions.

The Education Philosophy and Religion Department maintains a historic collection of pamphlets about education, historic churches, libraries, and more.

The Social Science and History Department holds local history books and maintains file collections pertaining to Philadelphia history, local biographies, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Pennsylvania counties and government.

The Newspapers & Microfilm Center is our region’s largest collection of newspapers from the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

The website Places in Time: Historical Documentation of Place in Greater Philadelphia has links to a rich variety of images, documents, maps, and views of Philadelphia and surrounding counties from throughout its history. Included are resources from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers, compiled by Adam Levine, historical consultant of the Philadelphia Water Department, includes resources from the Free Library of Philadelphia's collections.


Special Collections

The Print and Picture Collection is part of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Special Collections division. Click here to learn more about the library's special collections.


Support the Print and Picture Collection

We depend on financial support to add new acquisitions to the collection, mount exhibitions, and care for the collection. Monetary donations can be directed right to the Print and Picture Collection online or by sending a check payable to the "Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation" to: Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

Thank you for your support!